Clemson's Andre Ellington Must Be Considered a Heisman Candidate This Season
Look, it's pretty simple.
I know we're just now entering the second week of college football, a week where many teams are playing softie doughnut games (Clemson included), but it's never too early to look at guys who should be talked about for college football's most prestigious individual achievement.
Andre Ellington at least deserves to have his name mentioned after the ridiculous performance he put on against the Auburn Tigers this past weekend.
Ellington is a senior, and is considered one of the best running backs in college right now. That's high praise considering there are many great running backs in college this season.
Ellington elected to return to Clemson after his junior season in which he rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns for the highly explosive Tigers offense.
He spent most of the season battling nagging injuries that limited his abilities as a runner, but he was still able to be one of the more productive backs in the NCAA.
He came back despite being projected as a second to third-round pick in the NFL draft, a smartly calculated move for Ellington, who should see his draft stock shoot up during this season. It was also extremely fortuitous for the Tigers, who got their stud RB to return for another season.
Injuries aren't nagging him anymore. Ellington's healthy, and in his first week against an SEC opponent in Auburn, he rushed for a ridiculous 228 yards on 25 carries, good enough for 9.1 yards per carry.
He did this with Auburn knowing full well that the Tigers would be relying heavily on the running game due to the suspension of Sammy Watkins, Clemson's star wide receiver.
The Auburn defense wasn't really able to slow either dimension of Clemson's offense down, despite the absence of who is arguably their best player on the field.DeAndre Hopkins caught a school record 13 passes for 119 yards and the game-winning touchdown reception.
Meanwhile, Ellington was completely baffling Auburn's defense. They did not know how to stop him, and even when it looked like he was going down on two occasions, Ellington stuck his hand down and in a ridiculous show of athleticism, managed to keep his balance and continue plugging forward.
Ellington didn't score against Auburn, though the aforementioned 68-yard, acrobatic display of a run set up what would be a touchdown run by Roderick McDowell.
And let's be honest here, did he really need to score to get the respect he deserves?
Auburn knew Ellington was going to be public enemy No. 1. They knew he was Clemson's go-to weapon, and they knew he'd be getting carries frequently. And yet they still completely failed to stop him.
Whether that speaks to the porousness of Auburn's defense, Ellington's ridiculous athletic ability or just the pure explosiveness of Clemson's overall offense is up for debate. Probably a little mix of all three.
Ellington will be starting this week against a pretty bad Ball State team and it's very likely that he puts up even better numbers than he did against Auburn. It's not a stretch to say that Ellington could have 500 yards rushing in just his first two games of the season.
I doubt they'll give Ellington the ball enough for him to rack up nearly 275 yards, but he managed 228 on only 25 carries against Auburn. If he gets 25 carries against a much worse Ball State defense, it very well could happen.
Again, it's too early to say anything. Tajh Boyd was getting some Heisman hype last season through the first eight games, but the last third of the season ended up catching up to him and the Tigers.
But Ellington is a Heisman candidate. He should be. He's the best running back in the ACC, he's one of the best running backs in the country and if he can continue to mix his speed, acrobatics and power every time he runs, he should get some votes.
Just think... after the Ball State game, Sammy Watkins will be back on the field, and Tajh Boyd and Clemson's passing attack will be one of the best in college football. That opens up even more room for Ellington to completely carve up opposing defenses.
A year without injuries, don't be surprised to see Ellington rack up 1,500 or more rushing yards. Don't be surprised to see him, not Sammy Watkins or Tajh Boyd, become the best player on a very talented Clemson team.
And don't be surprised if he rides his dark horse to the Heisman ceremony at the end of the season.
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